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OF all the creatures that walked or swam or flew, Timothy Turtle liked boys the least of all. He said that if they ever did anything except throw stones he had never caught them at it.
"It's a wonder" – he often remarked – "it's a wonder that there's a stone left anywhere along this creek. I've lived here a good many years; and no boy ever spied me sunning myself on a rock in the water without trying to hit me."
Once in a great while some youngster was skillful enough to bounce a stone off Mr. Turtle's back. And when the old so scamp flopped into the water he always heard a great whooping from the bank.
At such times as likely as not Timothy had been awakened from a sound sleep. But when that jeering noise greeted his ears he knew at once what had struck him.
It was a good thing for him that he had a hard back. Nevertheless it always made him angry to be disturbed when he was taking a nap. And some people said that if Timothy Turtle ever grabbed a boy by his great-toe, when he was in swimming, that youngster would limp for many a day thereafter.
But the boys went in swimming just the same. Black Creek would have had to be alive with turtles to keep them out of it on a hot summer's day. Indeed Farmer Green often said that he wished his son Johnnie would spend half the time in the hayfield that he wasted around the creek.
When questioned by his father, Johnnie said that there was an old turtle in Black Creek that he wanted to catch.
"What are you going to do with him – make soup of him?" Farmer Green inquired solemnly.
Johnnie shook his head.
"I want to cut my initials on his shell and let him go," he explained. "Then if I catch him again when I'm grown up I'll know him when I find him.... I'll put the date under my initials, too," Johnnie added.
Farmer Green laughed.
"When you're grown up," he said, "you'll have something else to do besides catching snapping turtles. This afternoon you may carve your initials on the hay rake and then take it over to the big meadow and play with it."
For a few moments Johnnie Green couldn't help looking glum. He had intended to visit the creek that very afternoon. But now he knew that his father expected him to work – to work on one of the finest days of the whole summer!
"I'll let you off all day to-morrow," Farmer Green said. "And you know there's that calf I told you I'd give you if you helped me with the haying."
And then Johnnie actually smiled.
Well, the next morning was just as fine as the afternoon before. And Johnnie Green set off early for Black Creek, with his pockets stuffed full of cherries, because he was afraid he might get hungry. He ate a few of them on the way to the creek. But when he reached that delightful place he found something that made him forget what he had in his pockets. For there near the top of the bank, too far from the water to escape him – there lay Timothy Turtle himself, taking a sunbath on the warm sand.Click the book image to turn to the next Chapter.